The physical Burke County Bears and their size and speed proved to be too much Friday as they routed Thomson at The Brickyard, 31-8, in the Region 3-AAA championship game.
Burke County beat the Bulldogs for the region title for the second consecutive season and earned a No. 1 seed for the Class AAA state playoffs.
Thomson begins the playoffs at home at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The 6-4 Henry County Warhawks of McDonough, fresh from a 34-24 victory over the Eastside Eagles of Covington, will visit The Brickyard. Tickets are on sale at the Thomson High School office.
"We've got some tough ball games ahead, but we'll celebrate this one for the next 24 hours," Bears coach Eric Parker said after subjecting the Bulldogs to their first loss of the season.
Though Montres Kitchens' 113 yards and three touchdowns paced the Burke County offense and its 253 rushing yards, the Bears' defense was the story.
Thomson, which came in averaging more than 55 points per game, had only two first downs in the opening half, and they came on the first drive of the game.
Burke County (9-1) held the Bulldogs to 228 offensive yards, a chunk of which was gained with the game in hand.
The Bulldogs (9-1) had only 50 offensive yards by halftime, earning just 21 yards on the last 16 plays, and Burke County led 12-0 at the half.
The defensive highlight was Donquell Green and his uncatchable speed. The sophomore intercepted a pass inside the Bears' 20 and returned it for a score to make it 31-0.
With the defense holding Thomson scoreless until Torrie Battle's 28-yard touchdown reception with 2:34 to play in the game, Burke County had plenty of time to get going on offense.
In the first half, Kitchens and the Bears went 2-for-2 on their last two drives, with Kitchens leaping for yards on one play.
"Everybody can touch the ball - everybody is deadly," Kitchens said.
On those two scoring drives, Burke County converted on third down four times and on fourth down twice. Lambert atoned for a drop in the end zone when he caught a 15-yard scoring pass two plays later.
The Bears added two more offensive touchdowns in the game, the first on a 93-yard drive that lasted 5:31 to begin the third quarter.
Corey Mayton had the biggest play on the possession, rushing for 40 of his 77 yards on one play.
"We're facing adversity for the first time," Thomson coach Milan Turner said. "We'll see how they respond to it."